Tips From a Doctor: Managing Your MS Symptoms
- by Dr. Barry Singer, MD
- December 11, 2017
Dr. Singer is a paid spokesperson for Teva Neuroscience, Inc.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, it’s important to be your own advocate. One way to do this is by learning more about common multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms, tracking them, and then working with your doctor to manage your symptoms and overall health. Read tips on how I describe some of the more common MS symptoms.
Fatigue. Fatigue is the most common MS symptom. To conserve energy, try planning doctor-recommended physical activity in the morning. If you work, try resting for 15-20 minutes during lunch. If possible, an hour nap can be great to recharge your battery. Regular exercise could help reduce MS fatigue and may help you sleep better.
Poor sleep may affect MS fatigue. Getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep could help. Avoid caffeine in the evening and overstimulation such as television before bedtime.
Bladder Problems. The urgent need to urinate, called urgency, or troubles emptying your bladder, called retention, are common issues with MS. Reducing fluid intake is not a good option since that could lead to dehydration and constipation. Try going to the bathroom before getting into the car and planning regular bathroom breaks.
Caffeine and alcohol may worsen bladder urgency. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing recurrent bladder infections or unmanageable urination symptoms.
Weakness. Reduced strength in arms and legs may happen with MS. Exercise is one option that could help functional ability. Exercise regimens need to be tailored to your specific abilities and limitations, so it’s important to speak with your doctor to find the right option. You can also read tips from Neurologist Dr. Bowling on other MS-friendly exercises. If mild to moderate leg weakness, a stationary exercise bike could be great to build endurance without worrying about balance. If you are fairly fit without significant balance problems, exercise options include treadmill, elliptical and/or weight training.
Swimming or water aerobics are other options to help build strength without concern over balance. To maintain arm strength, try hand weights or squeeze balls. Maintaining upper body strength is particularly important for people with leg weakness to help maintain independence. For leg cramping and stiffness, stretching is important. Yoga may help to reduce muscle stiffness (called spasticity) and improve balance.
- Memory Loss. Short-term memory loss can affect about half of the people living with MS. Multitasking can be challenging as well, so organization is key. Use your smartphone for reminders. Create email folders at work for future reference. Take notes. Keep a family calendar on the refrigerator or share it electronically. Try a few Tips and Tricks to stimulate your mind. If finding words is a frequent problem, slow down and take your time. With a letter from your doctor, workplace accommodations can be implemented to reduce distractions so you can focus better on your work.
- Depression. Depression also affects about half of people living with MS. Definitely seek help from your health care provider right away if you are experiencing depression and/or irritability. Connecting with others with MS through local support groups, online forums or the Lift MS® Facebook page could help so you don’t feel alone or isolated. Volunteering is another option to help you focus on the positive impact you can have on others. Express your feelings to family members and friends so they can support you.
I hope this information empowers you to take action to manage your health. As always, your doctor is the best person to discuss your symptoms with. Together you can take the next step and create a care plan that meets your specific needs.
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Dr. Barry Singer, MD
About The AuthorDr. Barry Singer is the director of The MS Center for Innovations in Care at the Missouri Baptist Medical Center in St. Louis. He completed a neuroimmunology fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in 1999. He has been an investigator in more than 25 clinical trials focused on new multiple sclerosis treatment options since 1994. In 2016, he was appointed to the board of directors of the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America.
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Heidi | December 17, 2017Thanks so much for the important information it does help with my daily routine...Again thanks have a wonderful day and happy holidays...
Teva's Lift MS® Team | December 18, 2017We strive to make Lift MS an informative and inspiring community, Heidi. Thanks for your part in making it so.
June | March 18, 2018Thank you so much for the helpful information, especially about the MRI and the holiday season
Teva's Lift MS® Team | March 19, 2018Thanks for your kind words, June! Comments like yours fuel our efforts to build a helpful community.